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Of Data Security And Tea Sandwiches

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
Editorial Director, Customer [email protected] Solutions



It's no secret that nowadays certain industries expect more government regulation than others. If you're selling pharmaceuticals, working with the U.S. food supply or carrying the telecommunications of large chunks of the country, you can expect that you'll be a bit more scrutinized by local, state and federal law than other industries.

If you don't like being scrutinized overmuch by the law, you would probably be more inclined to a business like selling macram' planters or publishing a book on recipes for tea sandwiches and lemon cake.

No one gets tweaked about lemon cake, unless maybe you're a Florida lime farmer and angry that Key Lime Pie got relegated to the back pages of the book.

The telecommunications industry, and within it as a sub-set, the call center industry, both get more than their share of government scrutiny and legislation. Members of Congress, while admittedly elected to serve the residents of their own states, put forth sweeping bills on a variety of topics which, if adopted, will affect the country as a whole.

That's why I'm so miffed at the moment.

With 'do-not-call' and dialer legislation already passed, the up-and-coming legislation of concern to the contact center and direct marketing industries is that which covers data privacy and identity theft. After the high-profile mishaps at ChoicePoint, LexisNexis and others, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Congress will shortly be lobbing some fairly strict laws at any company that maintains large chunks of consumer data. I'd love to find out exactly what sort of laws might be coming our way, which industries are influencing them, how practicable they are, how the public can get involved and when they're likely to go into effect. Wouldn't you?

I made three attempts recently to contact U.S. senators who are actively involved in putting forth proposed data privacy and identify theft legislation. I'd like to get some feedback from Sens. Diane Feinstein of California, Charles Schumer of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Why those three? All are involved in sponsoring or co-sponsoring bills addressing this growing and high-profile problem of data privacy and identity theft. These bills, should they become laws (remember your 'School House Rock'?), affect the entirety of the U.S. ' both individuals and businesses, not just the constituents of certain districts of California, New York and Vermont.

Have you tried to e-mail your senator lately? No, scratch that. Have you tried e-mailing someone else's senator lately? Of the three e-mail messages I sent out, two out of three were returned to me, informing me that, sadly the senators could only respond back to their state residents. (Milk and a slice of lemon cake to Sen. Schumer for not having this caveat on his Web site.)

So let me get this straight: Sens. Feinstein and Leahy are not my senators, so they're unable to respond to me with questions about a data security bill that will affect every American and almost every business in each of the 50 states? What do I have to do'hire a Californian or a Vermonter to pose questions for me?

Sen. Leahy, my parents live in Vermont, part-time. I've played cow chip bingo on the green in the village of Chester. I've bet on when the ice on the Williams River would break up in the springtime in early July. I've downed untold pints of Long Trail Ale (a Vermont microbrew) at the bar at Bromley Mountain ski area, where my father works as a volunteer in the winter. Does that count?

Sen. Feinstein, I've an aunt, an uncle and cousins in northern California. I once left a pair of sunglasses, of which I was rather fond, in San Diego. Can I pose a question on behalf of my missing sunglasses, now undoubtedly permanent residents of the State of California?

"Contact your own senator," they urge. Great. I live in Connecticut, so it's my responsibility to talk to Sens. Chris Dodd and/or Joe Lieberman. Let's see'Sen. Dodd's pet issues are campaign finance reform, disability rights, women's health, the environment and human rights, among other things. Some of Sen. Lieberman's causes are homeland security, the armed services, small-business support, education and climate stewardship.

These are wonderful, worthy causes and I'm all for them. But they're not, I think, going to help me with my fledgling data security article. But fear not, fair readers, for I'm intrepid and can become cranky when thwarted. So expect an article on data security in the pages of CIS in the coming months. (Editor's Note from David Butcher: It's true. Editorial Director Tracey Schelmetic can very much become cranky when thwarted.)

Maybe I'll even include a lemon cake recipe. CIS

The author may be contacted at [email protected]

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